Community Action Champions

By Lynda Millner   |   June 28, 2018
CAC new executive director Pat Keelean with former director Fran Forman, who won a Champion award

The Community Action Commission (CAC) of Santa Barbara County just held their 13th annual CAC Champions dinner in Solvang at the Corque Hotel. Until recently, I was not aware of this nonprofit and all they do. But during the mudslide, they were my lifeline when I called 211. I always got a real person on the line and could ask if we were supposed to evacuate. Since we were right on the border, I never knew. They could zero-in on their computer maps to our house and tell exactly. Little did I know that was part of CAC.

Once a year, CAC honors those champions of youth, families, and seniors in our County. This year, one of the stars was Fran Forman, the newly retired executive director of CAC. She worked tirelessly on behalf of children, teens, families, and seniors to promote their education, job skills, physical/emotional well-being, and economic security in an effort to stabilize their lives.

Another champion was Dr. Kevin Walthers, who is superintendent/president of Allan Hancock College. He has built relationships with the community and created innovative fundraising programs. Under his leadership, the college launched The Hancock Promise, which allows students who graduate from high schools in Santa Maria, Lompoc, Santa Ynez, and Cuyama to receive their first year of tuition and fees for free.

CEO of CenCal and board chair of CAC Bob Freeman with Dan Herlinger, board chair of CenCal at the awards banquet in Solvang
President of Hancock College Dr. Kevin Walthers with Guy R. Walker, president of the AHC Foundation board and chair of the Promise campaign for the college

The third star was CenCal Health (CCH), which gave a generous matching gift allowing this year’s event to raise more than $100,000 to support the Healthy Senior Lunch program of CAC in our County. CCH began from a small local health plan to the largest health insurer in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. They provide for those who would not otherwise have health care coverage.

Introducing the Champions were Jim Raggio, Bob Freeman, and Guy Walker. David Bolton was master of ceremonies. Upon arrival, we had a wine reception outdoors on the terrace and then went into the ballroom for dinner and awards.

CAC works through its 22 health and human service programs, including Head Start, Healthy Senior Lunch, Weatherization Assistance, Family & Youth Services, and 211 Santa Barbara. They serve more than 10,000 people throughout the County each year and employ 400 health education and social service workers, and are one of the County’s largest employers.

CAC executive director Pat Keelean wanted us to know the top event sponsors were CenCal Health, Rabobank, Athur Gallagher, BB&H Benefit Designs, Chumash Foundation, and Deckers. “Tonight, we are all partners in the quest to ensure our seniors remain healthy and independent – that makes each one of you a champion as well.”

You can dial 211 to find health and human services for postpartum depression, health care, counseling, food assistance, housing, and much more. For more information, check out


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